There is a fundamental limitation in the existing solar model: it depends on the customer owning a suitable roof.

The existing business model for rooftop solar has led to an explosion of solar installations across the United States. Yet for all of the success that we have seen in the solar industry, there is a fundamental limitation in the existing solar model: it depends on the customer having a suitable roof. Generally, this means a roof that the customer owns (so it has the right to install panels), that faces a certain direction, has suitable support, and gets plenty of sunlight.

Unfortunately, about half of all American households and businesses do not have a roof that meets these requirements. For instance, they may rent their home, lease their office space, or have a roof that is shaded by trees or buildings. As a result, these customers are unable to enjoy the benefits of going solar, and the industry is unable to serve them. Finding a way to serve these customers would create substantial benefit to consumers, the solar industry, and the environment.

Over the past few years, a solution to this problem has emerged. Notably, it did not arise out of one of the major solar companies. Instead, it started in a small town called Ellensburg, Washington, where local residents found a way to enjoy the benefits of solar without the need to put panels on their rooftops. In so doing, they touched off a major new era in the rooftop solar industry, which we call The Era of Community Solar.

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